After 15 full-time seasons in the big leagues, with more disappointments than successes, Marco Andretti takes a step to the side in his career as a pilot. The 33-year-old American, grandson of world champion Mario Andretti and son of IndyCar champion Michael Andretti, announced Friday that will reduce its competitive schedule at IndyCar in the 2021 season, in which he will not contest the 17 races on the calendar, leaving an important vacancy at Andretti Autosport for much of the season.
In a statement issued on his social networks, Marco has alleged that this change in status has occurred by his own decision, and has confirmed that will compete at least in the Indianapolis 500 on # 98, the car he co-owns: “I’m still very hungry to win the Indy 500. It’s our biggest stage, and the place where I think I contribute the most as a driver. Getting pole last year was fantastic, but not enough. I know that a victory there is in my future, so I will try to achieve it in the next few years.
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“After serious thought for the last two months, I have made the decision to make some changes,” says Andretti, who has competed in 248 IndyCar races since his 2006 debut in the 300 miles of Miami. “I am fortunate to be in a position where I can race the whole season with Andretti Autosport if I wanted to, but I have decided to reset, do something different and new, and see where it takes me. Now is the right time to do it. I’m going to continue driving, I still have a deep passion for it, and pending issues to be resolved.
Andretti has assured that will evaluate competing in other races on the IndyCar calendar “to be in competitive shape”, without providing more specific details, and that he has offered to “help the team in tests or other activities.” One of those activities might involve your alleged foray into prototype racing, looking for “the opportunity to race at IMSA with my cousin Jarett, something that would be a lot of fun for me. I will evaluate other opportunities in that regard in the coming months, and I am open to conversations in that regard for major events such as the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring or Le Mans.
Marco Andretti’s announcement, equivalent to a semi-retirement from the IndyCar Series, comes after a series of insufficient results during a good part of the last five years which has had its lowest point in 2020. His pole at Indianapolis, the second by an Andretti in Indy 500 history, translated into a disappointing 13th place in the race, and the once-promise ended the season as the driver on time complete with the fewest points in the category, in 20th position overall. A 10th place on the Iowa Oval was his best result, in a year in which one of his teammates (Zach Veach) was fired for poor results despite having more points than him.
In response to this announcement, his father Michael Andretti, owner of Andretti Autosport, has expressed his support for his son’s decision: “Marco and I have discussed this thoroughly. We were working a full-time stint for him, but he decided to go in a different direction, and I respect him for that. For any multigenerational athlete, forging their own path and making a name for themselves alongside their family can be very challenging.. Marco has always had the courage for it, and I am proud of the career he has built, and the person he has become. I know his decision has not been easy, but as he has said, this is not a withdrawal. He has had some successes, and I think he has many more ahead of him.
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His accomplishments over 15 seasons have never really been highlighted, after a debut in 2006 in which he fell a few feet away from winning his first Indy 500 and was seventh overall with his first win at Sonoma. Since then, he has only improved that overall result in 2013 (fifth), and his second win at Iowa in 2011 has been unanswered. In fact, Andretti accumulates 86 races and more than five seasons without adding a single podium to the 20 that he has obtained, the last being his third place in the 500 miles of California of 2015.
In fact, finishing last last year left car # 98 without the $ 1.25 million that IndyCar’s Leader’s Circle program awards, adding to the potential departure of its main sponsor, left the program in very serious financial doubts for the immediate future. Now, the big question lies in the status of James hinchcliffe, presumed to be a full-time occupant of a fifth car, but who would also fit in to complete Marco’s program wherever he doesn’t race … if another driver isn’t selected for that purpose.